Volume 15, Issue 5 - September/October 2011


Florida Law Puts Film in Crosshairs
Some within the window film industry feel a new Florida law about product misrepresentation has gone too far. Florida HB 849, which went into effect July 1, makes it a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, to advertise, sell, offer, provide, distribute or market any product as hurricane, windstorm or impact-resistant unless it is in compliance with the provisions for product approval in the Florida Building Code. This includes window film.

In September of 2010, the Florida attorney general warned Floridians about window film companies that claim hurricane protection from window film. Reportedly, some window film shops had been selling window film to customers as a hurricane-proof product.

“Frankly it’s a no-win situation for window film dealers,” says Mike Feldman, owner of Advanced Film Solutions in Tampa, Fla.
“The shutter companies have a strong lobbying effort and, candidly, there have been dealers who have exaggerated claims about ‘shutter-less protection.’ Having been the manufacturer and now as a dealer we are careful when we discuss the efficacy of films...”

Others in the industry feel laws like this one hurt the industry and credibility of window film as a security product.

“The timing is fortunate because nobody is selling a lot of storm protection products right now, so it’s not really affecting us,” says Lyman McNutt, president of Solar-X Window Film Systems in Sarasota, Fla. “But I will not hesitate to advertise the fact that window film provides an elevated level of protection against windborne debris in violent weather; because that statement is true and I’ll let the Attorney General’s office try to prove that my product has no merit whatsoever—because they cannot. That product has been tested and proven to pass ASTM 1886/1996 levels, so how can it be worthless?”

The International Window Film Association (IWFA) is also concerned about the new Florida law.

“It is unfortunate that the new Florida legislation restricting the promotion and sale of certain products went as far as it did,” said Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA). “By stating that products promoted or offered for sale that offer protection against windstorm debris during a ‘windstorm’ must have Florida product approval, the legislature effectively expanded the Florida requirements for ‘hurricane protection’ products to include other products which do (and can be proven to) give significant reductions in property damage due to wind and rain in lower speed hurricane conditions and in many lower wind speed ‘windstorms.’”

“There is no question that there is an unfortunate history of unscrupulous film dealers over-extending their claims regarding the performance of so-called ‘hurricane’ films,” says McNutt. “But I also think that there is no question that safety film works and works well when properly applied; adding an elevated level of protection that far exceeds a non-filmed window.”
Smith says that due to its inclusion with an unrelated bill the
legislation snuck in without warning.

“This change was included in a bill dealing with entirely unrelated issues and became law so quickly our industry did not have time to react,” says Smith. “The IWFA Government Advocacy Committee and the IWFA board of directors will be looking at what changes and what options exist to address this in next year’s Florida legislative session.”

While some within the industry agree that there are dealers over-exaggerating the benefits of window film, they say the product still makes a difference.

“There is no question that there is an unfortunate history of unscrupulous film dealers over-extending their claims regarding the performance of so-called ‘hurricane’ films,” says McNutt. “But I also think that there is no question that safety film works and works well when properly applied; adding an elevated level of protection that far exceeds a non-filmed window.”

Bekaert Specialty Films Sold to Saint-Gobain
Bekaert Specialty Films announced the impending sale of its specialty films division to Ohio-based Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation. Bekaert entered the film industry in 2001 when they purchased the Specialty Films business.

A press release from Bekaert issued today stated, "While the business continued to grow successfully, technological synergies within Bekaert have proven to be limited over time.

Included in the sale are the production facilities in San Diego, Calif., Belgium and China as well as other operations in China, all sales and service centers and all employees currently working for Solar Gard Specialty Films. The sale is expected to be finalized sometime in 2011.

"Subject to final determination of transaction costs and other expenses, Bekaert expects the transaction to result in a capital gain of approximately EUR [10 million], and in a reduction of Bekaert's consolidated net debt of approximately EUR [80 million]," said a press release from Bekaert.

"We are extremely excited about joining forces with a major recognized player," says Christophe Fremont, president of Bekaert Specialty Films LLC, manufacturer of Solar Gard® Specialty Films. "Saint-Gobain is a market leader in the automotive and architectural markets and in particular the architectural energy market. There are many synergies, including the brand awareness that we will be able to leverage to grow the market for window film worldwide. Saint-Gobain, like Solar Gard, believes that glazing and window film are complimentary offerings in the market place and that there are huge opportunities for both technologies in the automotive and architectural markets, in particular for providing energy efficiency solutions. Solar Gard window films are proven carbon negative and offer a cost effective and carbon effective solution in many glazing and window projects. Current and planned energy efficiency regulations, legislation, standards and incentives are looking for more cost effective measures that can be deployed on a mass scale, and window films will more often provide the best answer to these needs. The need for glazing and window film will always be there and Saint-Gobain, like Solar Gard, recognizes the opportunity to develop new applications, drive innovation and expand market reach by leveraging the synergies between the two technologies."

Texas Tech Engineer Interested in Window Film Data
Larry Tanner, research associate at Texas Tech’s Wind Science & Engineering Research Center, has years of experience testing everything from doors, windows, glass, roofs, and more. He has surveyed these materials to see how these stand up to wind events, namely hurricanes and tornadoes.

Tanner is part of FEMA’s Mitigation Assessment Team (MAT) and he traveled to Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., following the recent EF5 tornadoes—his 15th such storm in the past 13 years. So he knows a thing or two about how products perform—except for window film.

“I’ve never seen it or identified it but I sure would like to,” says Tanner. “I would like to see some real-life performance data,” adding that he would be willing to work with window film companies.

Window Film’s sister publication, Door and Window Manufacturer (DWM) magazine, visited Texas Tech and Tanner’s lab recently, and talked more about tornadoes and their impact on structures during these storms.

DWM editor Tara Taffera talked to Tanner about the damage he witnessed in Joplin, including St. John’s Hospital, which received widespread media attention, due to the severe damage inflicted on the building.

“That building lost so much glazing,” says Tanner. “That’s probably a good application for window films.”

“Many of the newer hospitals being built today have lots of glass,” he adds. “Using laminated glass on those structures would be very expensive. If window films can perform to those accelerated levels then that is something worth looking into.”

Perhaps if less damage occurred, there could have been different results.

“If you could have maintained 50-60 percent of that the glazing and protected the generators then that hospital may not have been taken offline the way it was,” says Tanner.

Tanner’s colleague at Texas Tech, Ernst Kiesling, says he believes hospitals, including St .Johns, will rebuild differently.

“People are calling me who are currently building hospitals and they want advice,” says Kiesling. The same holds true for nursing homes and schools.

“Thanks to the media there is awareness and those building these types of structures will rebuild differently,” he adds.

Kiesling says as he understand the performance of window film it could have a beneficial effect.

“It doesn’t help to resist wind pressures but it can prevent some shattering,” he says.

What Happens in California … Never Stays in California
Things are happening in California and window film companies should be taking notice. Just as Florida has become the benchmark state for hurricane codes and protection, California sets the standard for energy legislation.

California has been active in working to combat global warming. In 2008, California officially enacted the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) which says that “global warming poses a serious threat to the environment of California and creates a comprehensive multi-year program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.”

More recently, legislation has been enacted to help already-constructed buildings achieve energy-efficiency. The legislation has several steps, some of which are complete (for new construction), others which are now in final development and some which have just begun and will take place over the next year or so.

“Governor Brown signed in to legislation a law called AD 759 and that legislation is mandated to focus on achieving energy legislation in existing buildings,” says Doug Huntley, laboratory manager at 3M.

The hope is that retrofitting will be included in the steps so that window film can be used as a product to make California buildings more energy-efficient. However, this won’t affect just California in the long run.

“The window film industry isn’t going to just focus on doing something in California,” says Darrell Smith, executive director of the IWFA. “California may serve as a role model for our efforts in other states to follow. It’s a great benchmark. What you do in California can be taken to other states. California has all of the issues that any state would have. If we can work with them and come up with a solution then that solution should be applicable almost anywhere.”

California continues to be a leader in energy-efficiency standards because of the great strides the state has made to become “greener.”

“California has been seen as a leader in setting energy-efficiency standards. It’s a large state so it’s a large user of electricity. Their price is the ninth highest in the nation,” says Smith. “They import more electricity than any other state, yet they are very cost efficient. Out of 50 states plus Washington, D.C., they are ranked 48 in terms of lowest cost per capita for electricity.”

As California moves forward with AD 759 the window film industry should pay close attention to what new standard the state sets this time.

“We would like to work with the key governing bodies to encourage improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings,” says Huntley. “We believe it is most effective to do so not by just looking at the absolute energy efficient target, but focusing on the delta improvement from how they perform today versus how much better we can get them to perform. Instead of saying everything must hit this absolute value, it’s much more cost effective, practical and is going to have a bigger impact if we say that we are going to take a lower performing building and improve it by 10 percent, 20 percent or even 30 percent. Therefore that is something that can be cost effective and would be implemented and would obviously have benefits for the window film industry.”

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